Transferable skills, also known as “portable skills,” are qualities that can be transferred from one job to another. Highlighting your transferable skills is especially important when changing jobs or industries. You likely already possess many transferable skills employers value, like organization, communication, relationship building or attention to detail.
In this article, we’ll define transferable skills and offer examples and tips to highlight them in your job search.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are proficiencies that are useful in a variety of jobs and industries. Transferable skills can be used to position your past experience when applying for a new job—especially if it’s in a different industry. For example, employers often look for candidates with strong communication skills. If you’ve developed the ability to easily share information to and from colleagues, you can apply them in any workplace.
Jobs in education, for example, require individuals who can communicate well with students, parents and other faculty members. Meanwhile, people in marketing positions should be able to communicate with team members, clients, managers and others to bring a campaign from idea to production.
Top transferable skills
Before applying for new jobs, take time to consider which skills you currently possess that can be transferred to a new employer. If you’re unsure, read a few job descriptions for the role you’re interested in, paying close attention to their required skills and experience. Each individual’s list of transferable skills will vary, but some common skills employers seek include:
Strong communication is the ability to impart information to others by speaking, writing or in another medium. Communication skills help you know when and how to ask questions, how to read body language and how to talk to people in many contexts. In the workplace, employers value strong communicators for their ability to work with others and move projects forward.
Transferable communication skills include:
Dependability encompasses qualities that make you a trusted employee. It includes punctuality, organization and responsibility. Every employer seeks candidates who can be trusted to accomplish tasks well and in a timely manner. They often trust these same people to successfully manage relationships, assignments and goals.
Transferable dependability skills include:
Teamwork skills involve the ability to work with others towards a common goal. Effective teamwork requires several other qualities such as empathy, active listening and strong communication. Providing successful teamwork examples during interviews can help employers understand how you’ll work with others in their company.
Transferable teamwork skills include:
A well-organized person has a strong, neat structure in their workspace, tasks and relationships. Organized employees typically meet deadlines, communicate with others in a timely manner and follow instructions well. Employers can trust organized workers to meet deadlines, take notes and ensure projects are completed efficiently.
Transferable organization skills include:
Adaptability skills are used to continue working towards goals even as teams, projects, management or products change. Employers hire flexible candidates who can quickly learn new skills and processes to ensure work is done quickly, efficiently and with a positive attitude.
Transferable adaptability skills include:
Read more: Adaptability Skills: Definition and Examples
Leadership skills include traits like strong communication, relationship building and dependability. You can transfer leadership skills to many different industries because most employers value people who can organize teams to reach shared goals.
Transferable leadership skills include:
Decision-making is appealing to employers across the board as it shows confidence and good-judgment, which is valuable in any industry. Decision-making requires you to analyze a situation, predict possible outcomes and come up with a solution or action in an efficient time frame.
Transferable decision-making skills include:
Having strong empathy and emotional intelligence promotes a healthy work environment and helps build strong relationships with clients and colleagues. As many jobs involve working or interacting with other people having empathy is a skill that is desirable to most employers.
Transferable empathy skills include:
Read more: How to Be Empathetic in the Workplace
Being able to motivate yourself in the workplace is a skill that’s impressive regardless of the industry you’re in. Taking initiative to pursue new tasks, contribute ideas and produce high-quality work helps show commitment to your job and often results in advancing your career.
Transferable initiative skills include:
Read more: 9 Ways To Take Initiative at Work
Technology literacy is your comfort with and ability to navigate new technology. Nearly every position in every industry will require the use of technology at some level. In an increasingly technological workplace, employers value candidates who can learn new tools and software quickly to complete tasks.
Transferable technology literacy skills include:
- Programming skills
- Point of sale software
- Customer relationship management software
How to highlight your transferable skills
You might include transferable skills on your resume, cover letter and in interviews. Review the job description carefully to identify which of your transferable skills are most relevant to the position.
Transferable skills on a resume
On your resume, there are several options when deciding where to include key transferable skills. You can list transferable skills on your resume in the following sections:
- Resume summary or objective
- Employment history descriptions
In your resume summary or objective, consider including your most valuable, relevant transferable skill. For example, if you have strong communication skills, you might say:
“Tenacious project manager with five years of experience using strong communication skills to complete successful end-to-end projects across several teams.”
In your employment history section, identify which skills you used to be successful in previous roles. Instead of simply listing your job duties, you should select two to three of your most relevant accomplishments. You likely used several different skills to achieve those goals, so you don’t need to state the transferable skill directly. For example, one of your achievements in a previous role might say,
“Established competitive quotas and bonus program for sales department, increasing YoY revenue 10% in most recent fiscal year”
This tells the employer you used several different skills that will be useful to their company like creativity, communication and leadership.
Your skills list is also a helpful way to display your strongest transferable skills. While you likely have several useful qualities, be sure to use the job description to decide which skills to put on your resume. These can be found under sections like “job duties” or “requirements.”
Transferable skills on a cover letter
When writing your cover letter, focus on one or two of your transferable skills that the employer has included in the job description. In the body paragraphs of your letter, write about when you’ve used these skills in past work experiences. For example, a paragraph in a cover letter for a bookkeeper might say:
“During my previous role at Crane & Jenkins, I was Head Bookkeeper for over five years and kept an overview of all financial records. During my tenure there, Crane & Jenkins experienced an 18% increase in revenue over five years. I also worked closely with other administrators, and excelled in the team-oriented environment.”
The candidate here explains how their teamwork and organization skills helped drive success for their company. This helps employers clearly understand how they demonstrated their skills in context, making it easier to see them as a fit for the position.
Transferable skills while interviewing
During your interview, use examples of when you’ve used relevant transferable skills to answer your interviewer’s questions, if applicable. Remember to “show” instead of “tell” when you can, providing specific stories of when you used your skills successfully.
When you seek new employment opportunities, you will find that many of your current skills, like interpersonal skills, are transferable to new employers.